Tab Notes lets you write and save notes in Firefox and Chrome

Aug 13, 2019
Firefox add-ons, Google Chrome extensions, Software

We have seen and reviewed plenty of note taking applications in the past including tomboy-ng, Boostnote and Joplin which we reviewed recently here on Ghacks. But here's one which works right in your web browser.

Tab Notes lets you write and save notes in Firefox and Chrome. It is from the same developer who is behind the excellent Textarea Cache add-on.

How does it work?

Once you install the browser extension in chrome or Firefox, it works out of the box. To begin using it, just open a new tab to get to the note interface.The extension takes over the New Tab Page of the web browser.

Type something in the page, it doesn't get simpler than this. You can use it to create as many notes as you want. To add a new note, click on the hamburger menu icon on the left to bring up the side bar, and then select the "Plus" button. And since it works in the browser, it uses the default spell-check tool of the browser.

The add-on displays the first few words of a note in the side-panel which you can use for identification and quickly navigating between notes.

You can have multiple instances of Tab Notes open at the same time by opening multiple new tab pages in the web browser; this allows you to work on multiple notes at the same time or display multiple notes in different tabs.

Tab Notes can be a priceless tool if you want to quickly jot down something like ideas or a to-do list. You could even use it to save links, though they appear as text, so you'll need to copy and paste them. The extension is available for Firefox and Chrome (I tested it in Edge Chromium).

How do you save the notes? You don't have to because your notes are saved automatically as you type. The notes are persistent, i.e., they remain after you close the browser and restart it. I'd advise you to backup the notes manually using a text editor so you don't lose any important information though; running a cleaning tool on the system could very well delete the data.

Closing Words

The main issue with Tab Notes is that it takes over the New Tab Page. This can be a problem if you were using a different add-on for the new tab functionality (like Group Speed Dial) or use the New Tab Page actively. There is no workaround for this which means that you are left with one or the other but not both. Many add-ons open a new tab with their own options, perhaps the dev could do the same.

The other major con, and this is very subjective, is the complete lack of customization in Tab Notes. I mean there is literally nothing that you can change, not even a bold/italics toggle, or font type or size selector. I was really hoping to try the dark theme, but it appears that the add-on uses the browser's theme settings.

Support for links or images could be a very useful addition as well, but it could remove a bit if the lightness of the note taking experience.

Tab Notes is not meant to be a text editor. It is a simple note taking add-on so some people may find the bare bones approach to be better. The developer has mentioned he is working on Markdown support; you can follow the development on GitHub if you are interested.

Tab Notes is an open source project, and does not require any permissions at all.

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  1. Wildsky said on August 15, 2019 at 4:29 pm

    Hi Ashwin! Thanks for your article! and hello to all guys here!

    This add-on is just made for my own needs, I hope you like it. :)

    And I just add an new feature in v2.1.0: browser-action support. (And shortcut cmd/ctrl + Y)
    With this new feature, you could replace your new tab page to use other add-on without giving up Tab Notes.

    But due to limiting of Firefox, we need a workaround to achieve that:

    1) You should install Tab Notes first.
    2) then install the new-tab-replacing add-on you want.

    Another way to achieve is to disable both add-on, and enable Tab Notes first, then enable the add-on you want. I believe Firefox will improve this user flow in the future…

    I really like the multi-notes idea, which is provided by one of Waterfox maintainers, grahamperrin.
    And I even write an blog post for the feature release:

    Feel free to give me more suggestions in GitHub, or just comment below. :D

  2. thebrowser said on August 14, 2019 at 8:54 am

    > I was really hoping to try the dark theme, but it appears that the add-on uses the browser’s theme settings.

    For me it shows a round button at the top right corner that toggles between light/dark themes.

    Interesting concpet but too simple for me. It’d be nice to have markdown support, or even the option to allow notes in a pop-up rather than taking over a new tab so I look forward to those updates.

    1. Wildsky said on August 15, 2019 at 4:38 pm

      Customize style will be supported in the future. (ref: ) I might take Typora as a reference. Their style are all so elegant!

      But before customize style, I want to support Markdown first.
      Hope I could finish these functions soon. 😂

  3. Jonas said on August 14, 2019 at 7:36 am

    There’s another potential downside… what happens to your notes if the developer discontinues development and a future FF update breaks it?

    Not far-fetched, because this is exactly what happened to me in Thunderbird. I was using an extension to keep notes per-email (which was great), then an update to Tbird broke it and my notes all disappeared. When I emailed the developer he told me he wouldn’t re-start development unless somebody “paid him a lot of money” or something like that.

    It’s best to stay generic with your data whenever possible; standards (however shaky) tend to be more future-proof.

    1. Wildsky said on August 15, 2019 at 4:49 pm

      Good point. I plan to implement export function in the future. (but might not be soon) It will download a plain text file (or a full db json), you could access all of your note by open it will any of editor you like to use. (but again, this feature is still not on my schedule yet.)

      I didn’t think this feature necessary before, because there were only one note in Tab Notes, and you could back it up by select all and copy.

      But Tab Notes support multi-notes now, and even rich text in the future. I believe this feature would be more and more essential…

      I might not promise that I will maintain this add-on forever, but I will implement export function before I retire.

    2. Rex said on August 14, 2019 at 12:20 pm

      Try ‘Google Keep Notes’ as I mentioned above (and no, I’m not the developer shilling for it), since it syncs with Keep you can access your notes in other ways as well.

    3. Klaas Vaak said on August 14, 2019 at 11:21 am

      @Jonas: good point. That is particularly applicable to an app using its own unique format to store your data, thus locking you in with that app/dev.

  4. Oxa said on August 13, 2019 at 9:24 pm

    Or you can just create a bookmark for:
    data:text/html, Notepad
    It works for taking notes, with no add-on needed, and no hijacking of the new tab.

  5. binocry said on August 13, 2019 at 7:46 pm

    hei, for everyone using simplenote can you accses to app.simplenote website? my notes dissapear now on web

    1. Wildsky said on August 15, 2019 at 4:51 pm

      try another browser? Maybe it is cache issue.

    2. Ashwin said on August 14, 2019 at 6:02 am

      Works fine for me. Check the trash option to see if the notes were moved there.

      1. binocry said on August 14, 2019 at 4:09 pm

        still disappearing. now i move to google keep

  6. runaroundSue said on August 13, 2019 at 7:38 pm

    Hi. I tried it for a while on Chrome, but I got tired of it opening a new tab all the time. Also I have never liked an app where you have to copy and paste urls…compared to where you’re given live links in some other apps. I actually like Toby better (though its a bookmarks app), Joplin, Flashnote and SideSlider. There’s a ton of them available.

  7. Tom Hawack said on August 13, 2019 at 6:58 pm

    “The extension takes over the New Tab Page of the web browser.”
    “The main issue with Tab Notes is that it takes over the New Tab Page.”

    True, and that’s a kill-switch as far as I’m concerned. Also, the name of the extension seems misleading as it would refer to the idea it manages per-tab notes when in fact it’s a simple note taker.

    A browser’s note-taker is one thing, a per-domain and/or per-page note manager is another. For the former I prefer an application independent of the browser: at this time I use an app called ‘Mempad’ but there are many available and many have been reviewed on Ghacks.

    Personally I linger to find an extension that manages notes per-domain and per-page. The only one I know closest to my expectations is called precisely ‘Note Taker’ and available for Firefox (at least). But I find it cumbersome, even if it does handle per-domain and per-page notes but because notes are categorized depending on the extension’s settings when I’d wish to take a note when visiting a page and set it immediately for the page only or for the host or for the entire domain… What i’m referring to here is o course notes which appear either as sticky on the concerned page/domain screen, either as a toolbar button’s badge (as ‘Note-Taker’ does it).

    I just cannot find such an extension. Side-note : is it only me or is it widely admitted that utilities, be it within applications or browser extensions, are less and less the concern of developers…

    1. Ashwin said on August 14, 2019 at 6:05 am

      Have you tried Sticky Notes? It remembers notes per tab.

      1. Rex said on August 14, 2019 at 12:18 pm

        “is it only me or is it widely admitted that utilities, be it within applications or browser extensions, are less and less the concern of developers…”
        This is the price you pay as an end user by Mozilla deliberately dummifying their browser to bring it in line with Chrome. Developers can only work with the highly restricted Web Extensions API now, nothing like Chatzilla or Newsfox (full blown RSS client written as a XUL application) are possible now.
        I use ‘Google Keep Notes’, which syncs with Google Keep and runs in a sidebar, and apparently it is still available for Firefox so you could take a look at that. I discovered and switched to Palemoon the day Mozilla announced they were abandoning XUL, and haven’t looked back since.

      2. Tom Hawack said on August 14, 2019 at 5:41 pm

        @Rex, ‘Google Keep Notes’ is a Google service and moreover requires a Google account as far as I understand it. I don’t have a Google account, I avoid Google as much as possible ,everything which can be blocked without hurting sites’ display is blocked and that’s already a lot.

        Concerning developers interest for applications’ and extensions’ tools and utilities, of course the Web Extensions API won’t help but I think the unease is deeper. Look at applications, look at userscripts and userstyles, we don’t find those nice little codes we used to even a few years ago, most aim at interfering in games, cheat sheets included. The basics seem to be abandoned, maybe not thrilling enough. You do find once in a while little gems but my feeling is that there’s no longer the enthusiasm of the past years. I may be wrong, I hope I am.

      3. Tom Hawack said on August 14, 2019 at 11:00 am

        @Ashwin, I had tried ‘Sticky Notes’ yet just installed it again given its Aug 11, 2019 update to version 1.2.4 to check it out. Indeed it manages per-tab notes but not per domain. The idea is a user’s wish to have some notes apply to a domain and others to a specific tab (and possibly to a domain’s host and to browser-wide), hence with four options when creating a note :

        1- General (a browser-wide note-taker)
        2- Domain-wide (i.e. GitHub)
        3- Domain’s host restricted (i.e. GitHub/Repository)
        4- Tab specific (i.e. GitHub/Repository/Tab)

        That’s how I conceive dealing with notes, and I find no extension able to perform this.

        Thanks for the information anyway, and by the way I appreciate your articles, all in the Ghacks tradition : comprehensible, clear, concise.

      4. Wildsky said on August 15, 2019 at 5:01 pm

        I have another add-on called ‘Page Memo’. give it a try?

        It stores memos by url (query & anchor included.) This rule might be strict, but you could access all of your memos by memo list page. And some website using query & anchor as different pages (such as Youtube) so I got no choice. All I could do is make sure users would not loss their memos.

        If you have any suggestions after using it, feel free to open new issues on its GitHub:

      5. Ashwin said on August 14, 2019 at 3:24 pm

        Those requirements are pretty unique. I’ll keep an eye out for such an add-on. I mostly stick notes to tabs to serve as a reminder, it’s not easy to remember why a tab is open, when you add a dozen tabs or so every day.

        And thanks for the kind words Tom, I appreciate it. :)

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